Sandbox travellers landlocked in Phuket over the flight ban will be allowed to fly to Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, starting next month, a Transport Ministry source reported.
Domestic Flights at both airports have been suspended by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Causing inconvenience to tourists under the tourism reopening Sandbox program.
The aviation regulator issued a ban on commercial domestic flights to destinations in provinces hardest-hit by Covid-19, the so-called dark red zones, on July 21. Affected are Suvarnabhumi in Samut Prakan and Don Mueang in Bangkok.
According to the source, CAAT is prepared to relax the flight ban at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports to cater to the sandbox visitors.
Passengers arriving from Phuket are required to complete the 14-day programme if they want to travel to Bangkok or other provinces.
However, foreign visitors who are unable to complete the programme but want to return home are also allowed to fly but they cannot leave the airport. The transit/transfer period is extended from 12 to 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Thai Airways International (THAI) said it has adjusted flight operations to accommodate changes in air travel demand and Covid-19 restrictions.
According to THAI executive Nont Kalintha, the carrier will operate two domestic flights between Bangkok and Phuket per week until October.
Phuket-bound TG922 will leave every Thursday while Bangkok-bound TG916 will leave Phuket on Fridays. Flights are expected to start in September in line with the CAAT’s announcement.
The airline also plans one return flight on the Bangkok-Phuket-Frankfurt route leaving Bangkok every Thursday and one return flight on the Bangkok-Phuket-London route leaving Bangkok every Friday.
The carrier also plans to offer two routes — Bangkok-Paris-Phuket-Bangkok and Bangkok-Zuric-Phuket-Bangkok — per week leaving Bangkok every Thursday and Friday respectively.
Tourist Can Now Travel to Other Destinations
On Monday the Thai Government nailed down the long-awaited 7+7 extension plan for the Phuket Sandbox program and other Provinces in Southern Thailand.
The Phuket Sandbox reopening plan of adding other tourist destinations links have been approved in principal by the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) since July 22. However they had to gain formal approval from both the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration CCSA subcommittee on Aug 5 and a committee under the Communicable Diseases Act on Aug 13, respectively.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said from Aug 16 foreign tourists can join the Sandbox program, which will help cut the mandatory stay in Phuket from 14 days to just 7 days. Tourists can then traveling on to other designated destinations.
However, participants have to apply for a Certificate of Entry (COE) for each route before departing for Thailand. The Foreign Ministry will open the system for registration within this week.
Only Southern Thailand areas added
According to the 7+7 Phuket extension plan, the areas to included are Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani; Khao Lak, Kho Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi in Phangnga; Koh Phi Phi, Railay Beach, and Koh Ngai in Krabi.
After testing the country’s reopening programme with Phuket sandbox, the province has recorded 394,877 room nights in 394 hotels with 35,480 guests.
Mr Yuthasak said the CCSA on Monday also approved every sandbox area to receive tourists who have been vaccinated with Sputnik V which could help clear an obstacle for Russian tourists.
However, the weakness of the scheme is the mandatory stay, forcing tourists to roam the island for two weeks before being allowed to travel to other provinces.
The virus situation which prompted lockdown has complicated the situation as public transport serving cross-provincial travels in the dark red zone are banned, including flights from Phuket to Samui which were suspended. Therefore, the 7+7 extension plan which mainly connects tourists via boat is seen as an alternative for tourists who will be able to enjoy more travel options.
Charintip Tiyaphorn, president of the Tourism Council of Krabi, said after the plan was officially approved, the booking trend is anticipated to improve from October as the high season will roll out from then.